Prof Michael Depledge Chair of Advisory Board

Michael was educated at Westfield College, University of London where he gained a First Class Honours degree in Biological Sciences, (1975) and a PhD in the toxicology of marine organisms (1978).

As a post-doctoral research fellow at the Brompton Hospital, London he studied lung damage in the severely ill. Later, as a clinical scientist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, his pioneering research led to ways of reducing lung toxicity associated with whole body irradiation and bone marrow transplantation used in the treatment of leukaemia (1979-1982). In 1982 as a lecturer in Physiology at the medical school of the University of Hong Kong he worked on environmental medicine but in 1987 was appointed to the first Chair of Ecotoxicology in Europe at Odense University, Denmark aged 33 years. After establishing a highly productive, internationally recognised research group, he returned to the UK in 1994 to take up the Chair of Marine Biology and Ecotoxicology at the University of Plymouth.

He was a founding Director of the Plymouth Environmental Research Centre in 1996. In September 2002, Michael was invited to become the Chief Scientific Advisor of the UK Government’s Environment Agency. After a 4 year term in which he produced the Agency’s first ever Science Strategy and created a Europe-wide partnership among the science departments of EU member state environment agencies, he returned to academia to take up his current Chair. At the same time he took on the role as the Science Advisor at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (the later until Sept, 2007). He was appointed as a board member of the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC -2002 to 2006), and was a founding board member of Natural England (2006-2009). He is a is a former member of UK Government’s Chief Scientific Advisors Committee (CSAC) and worked as a member of the Royal Society’s task force on “Ground level ozone in the 21st Century”. Professor Depledge is currently chairman of the Science Advisory Group for Environment and Climate Change, in DG-Research, European Commission in Brussels. He is also the Royal Society’s environment representative on the European Academies Science Advisory Council.

Professor Depledge has published more than 380 peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading international journals and books. In recognition of his major scientific contributions to the fields of comparative toxicology and medical toxicology he was awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) degree by the University of London (1996). Since 1990 he has been an expert advisor on marine pollution to the United Nations, working in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, China, Vietnam and several other countries to develop the RAMP (Rapid Assessment of Marine Pollution) programme for UNEP’s Global Oceans Observing System (GOOS). He also serves as an expert advisor to the World Health Organisation (2001- ongoing).

Professor Depledge has given hundreds of lectures at international conferences, workshops, universities and research institutes over the past 30 years, to a wide range of audiences. He has recently led establishment of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health on the University of Exeter Medical School campus in Truro.

Professor Depledge’s role in the University of Exeter Medical School has been to establish and foster the development of the Environment and Human Health research area and to serve as an ambassador both for the medical school and the University of Exeter as a whole. He is involved in fund raising and in the international work of the University. He is also very active in leading the development of new research themes within the university.

Broad research specialisms

Prof. Depledge is interested in all aspects of biology, but especially the ways in which anthropogenic activities affect the environment and human health. The ecotoxicological research he conducted has focused on the effects of environmental pollutants on the physiology and behaviour of marine invertebrates and subsequent ecological and evolutionary consequences. He has a particular interest in biomarkers that allow changes in the health and physiological status of organisms to be monitored over time.

Another aspect of his work has been to look at how environmental change impacts the health and wellbeing of humans.

For many years he have been exploring how to use research findings in a constructive way to influence the development of new policies. This has now become his primary objective.


BSc(Hons) First Class, Biological Sciences
PhD (Lond.) Marine Ecotoxicology
DSc (Lond.)

Please contact Joanne Jacob for all enquiries.